Farmers who are into piggery business should be smiling all the way to the bank, thanks to the ever rising pork prices.
A kilogram of pork averages Shs15, 000 across the country.
John Malinzi, an agribusiness Consultant attributes the soaring pork prices to a number of factors including swine fever that hit various parts of the country and increasing pork consumption arising to increasing population and townships amid low pork production.
“Serious commercial piggery farmers who will supply pork consistently are very few in Uganda,” Malinzi says in an exclusive interview with Business Focus.
“Pork production costs remain high in Uganda. Farmers who rush into piggery farming without doing adequate research especially on how to cut costs end up making losses and abandoning the enterprise,” Malinzi adds.
He explains that farmers should concentrate on ways of reducing feeding costs since pork market is readily available. He adds that pigs should be fed well to grow fast and give a farmer/investor a good return on investment.
“The current pork crisis is an opportunity for farmers to devise means on how to make money from piggery business,” he says, adding that one way to cut costs is to grow your own maize or buy maize cheaply and mix your own feeds.
Like Malinzi, Christopher Mulindwa, a pig farmer and Consultant says piggery farming and marketing environment in Uganda changed greatly during COVID-19 lockdown.
He says for the past ten years he has survived in this sector, pork prices rarely go down whenever they rise.
“Pork prices have been increasing by almost Shs500 every year. In 2009, the farm gate price for pork was Shs3000. Before the lockdown in March 2020, price had grown to Shs8,500. This is an increase of more than Shs5, 000 in 10 years.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the farm gate price for pork increased from Shs85, 00 to Shs11, 000. This is an increase of about Shs2,500 in just two months,” Mulindwa says.
He says pork produced in Uganda falls under two main categories; Ordinary and Premium.
“Pork grading is based on age of the pig slaughter, Muscle to fat ratio, weight of the carcass and quantities supplied at a given time,” he says.
Mulindwa explains that the prices mentioned above falls under category one (ordinary pork).
He adds that Ordinary pork takes the largest share of the pork produced in Uganda because there is limited number of pig farmers specializing in growing pigs for slaughter.
“Most pig farmers only produce piglets for sale to other farmers and the cycle continues,” he says.
He adds that Ordinary pork is common because only worn out, non productive and sick pigs are sold for slaughter resulting into low quality pork carcasses.
He further reveals that fattening pigs for slaughter demands good knowledge and skills in both production and marketing which is lacking among many pig farmers in Uganda ending up investing to lose money. This results into loss of interest in business.
Ordinary Pork is also common in Uganda because the process of feeding a pig from weaning to slaughter weight requires reasonable financing.
“The limited access to finances makes it a difficult venture to mainly small and medium holder pig farmers who are the majority pig producers in Uganda,” Mulindwa says.
He notes that most pig producers are used to the nearby abattoirs and pork joints that follow no standards when buying pigs.
“The premium pork market is a rapidly growing segment but currently benefiting foreign land companies including those in Kenya and Europe that export pork to Uganda. A kilogram of a premium pig carcass currently goes for Shs15,000. For those buying raw pork from supermarkets and people serving pan fried/barbecue pork from hotels and top city restaurants, you agree with me that this is still at a lower end. The premium pork price can be increased by more than 25% if sold as primal cuts,” he explains.
He adds that it only requires investment in a few equipment used in simple pork processing.
“However, a person investing in this must be willing to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for pork processing and marketing,” he says, adding that the steadily improving market for pork in Uganda makes pig farming one of the most lucrative ventures to invest in currently.
“It is hard to imagine that for a 70-kg premium carcass, pig farmers sale at more than Shs1m and more than Shs700,000 for ordinary carcasses. When a farmer is in control of their farm production costs through planned nutrition, performing genetics and skilled management, the average cost of producing a pig for slaughter from insemination is about Shs350,000,” he says, adding: “Therefore a profit of Shs650,000 from premium carcasses is made, this is unbelievably true!”
The market improvement is also benefiting farmers producing pigs for reproduction (Piglets, gilts boars etc).
The COVID-19 lockdown made many rethink their income sources hence considering investment in the pig farming business.
“Being an electoral season, politicians are also buying pigs for their supporters. Non-government institutions and government agricultural institutions are buying breeding pigs for their beneficiaries as a strategy to help them cope with consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown. This has resulted into increased demand for breeding pigs,” he says.
He adds that the average cost of an 8 weeks piglet of undefined genetics in March 2020 was Shs120, 000. The price has now increased to Shs200,000 and even at this price, finding some to buy is a hard job.
“Therefore, this is the time for every pig farmer to pay necessary attention to their businesses. You can strategize and positively impact your farm profitability forever,” he says.